Sigma Art Lenses Are Becoming Far Too Ridiculous

Sigma Art Lenses Are Becoming Far Too Ridiculous

The Sigma 40mm f/1.4 Art is such a ridiculous lens. Whenever I've thought about 40mm lenses I thought about the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 pancake lens. I'm sure many of us have owned one of these lenses; it's actually pretty good. The tiny form factor, relatively fast autofocus speeds, and great image quality. Obviously, this lens was just too small for Sigma.

As a company, Sigma is known for producing somewhat irregular or relatively unique lenses. They're not afraid of making huge heavy lenses with super wide apertures. Lenses like the 14mm f/1.8 Art, and fast aperture zoom lenses like the 24-35mm f/2.0 Art and my favorite APS-C lens, the 18-35mm f/1.8 Art. All of these lenses have one thing in common, they're huge. The latest addition to Sigmas lineup is the 40mm f/1.4 Art lens. This one really takes the cake. I'm not even sure how they've managed to make this mid-range focal lens into the behemoth that is it. I mean it weighs more than the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art

How is that even possible? 

Sigma Struggles to Make Small Lenses

Ok, so, the above subheading may be a little provocative but, at least it's not clickbait right? Here's the thing though, if you compare almost any Sigma art lens to any other manufacturer, Sigma is generally significantly larger and heavier. Take the Nikon 105mm f/1.4 lens for instance. The Nikon version is an incredible lens with both super sharp results wide open and beautiful bokeh. Sure, the Sigma 105 f/1.4 Art is better when it comes to optical performance but it's only really noticeable on test charts. The weight and size differences are very real and very noticeable. The Sigma is heavy even when it comes to medium format lenses. The 105mm from Sigma is about as heavy as the Schnieder Kreuznach 150mm LS f/2.8 and actually has a larger filter thread size. The weird thing is that even with the much larger front element, vignetting isn't much better when compared to the Nikon lens. Aside from being slightly sharper, why is the Sigma lens so ridiculously huge? 

Another lens that comes to mind is the 85mm f/1.4 Art. Compare that to some of the other alternatives available from Canon and Sony you'll see a similar pattern. Sharpness wide open is slightly better but other than that it doesn't offer any significant advantages. Even with the huge size and massive front element, the lens still has a pretty poor T-stop rating at T/1.8. That's the same T-stop values as the Sony 85mm f/1.8 Batis. I should mention the fact that the vignetting is noticeably better than the Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM even if the T-stop isn't. I guess for this lens the front element is helping. 

More recently Sigma released their 40mm f/1.4 Art lens. A recent review from Kai Wong demonstrates just how huge and almost unwieldy this lens actually is. I get that it is a super sharp lens, even when compared to high-end performers like the Canon 35mm f/1.4 II. This lens might even be the sharpest lens Sigma has ever produced and that's really saying something. Although, at 1.2kg it's such an impractical, ridiculous lens that I wonder why anyone would actually want it. This is especially evident when you consider the significantly smaller and lighter alternatives like almost any 35mm f/1.4 or 50mm f/1.4 lenses. 

The point I'm trying to make is that for one reason or another Sigma seems to struggle when it comes to producing fast aperture lenses that aren't beyond practicalities. Sigma seems to love having a huge front element in their lenses. In my discussions with Sigma, they explained how the larger front element helps to prevent vignetting. I could be wrong here but surely, using a camera profile would be far more efficient, wouldn't it? Even with the same focal lengths compared to other manufacturers, Sigma prioritizes sharpness over everything else. This includes important aspects such as T-stop values and the weight/size of their lenses balloons to a point where it's just silly.

I've Stopped Shooting With My Sigma Lenses

For the last year, I haven't used any of my Sigma lenses for any professional work. Aside from a few comparisons I've done where I needed to shoot with them, I haven't even used them for any of my personal work. This isn't intentional by any means it's just that I'm reluctant to use my Art lenses for any work I have.

They take up too much space in the bag, they weigh far too much and comparatively speaking they don't offer that much better quality compared to some other lenses I have. Lenses like the Batis 85mm or the Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 which are tiny in comparison and offer fantastic image quality unless you're being super pedantic about the finer details. I honestly care more about my back than having slightly better image quality that no one will actually notice. Why would I want to suffer so much for so little? Speaking of image quality, looking at the images below, is there really that much of a difference in sharpness? One was with the Batis 85mm and the other with the Sigma 85mm Art on the Sony a7R III, both were shot wide open. 

The difference in size is significant

When I first bought lenses like the Sigma 85mm Art, I actually boasted about how huge it was. The feeling I had was almost like "yes this is what professional use" which is obviously nonsense. Having a huge lens with a massive front element is somewhat pleasing for the ego, some could describe it as overcompensating. Ultimately, I find that I don't use my Sigma lenses as much as some other lenses I now own and it's purely because Art lenses are mostly impractical. 

In Defense Of Sigma

My assumptions are that Sigma uses large optics because that's probably one of the most effective ways to produce super sharp high-resolution lenses. It would seem as though smaller optics may not be able to produce the same level of detail for a number of reasons. It may go to explain why so many medium format lenses are so much better optically speaking and Sigma is using that method to produce full frame lenses. There's obviously a large market of photographers who want very high-quality lenses and don't mind the extra weight and size. If you need the absolute best in quality, then you may have to compromise in areas of practicality.

Unfortunately, there isn't a perfect option and Sigma now caters to a certain section of the market that tends to appreciate quality over some practicalities. This is also one of the reasons I won't be selling my Sigma Art lenses anytime soon because there are instances where I need that level of quality. It's rare but I like the idea that I can offer then when required. Sigma has produced some incredible lenses and I'm honestly a huge fan. Being a fan, however, doesn't mean I won't point out some of the aspects I dislike or consider to be rather ridiculous. The 40mm f/1.4 Art is definitely a ridiculous lens and right now I'm struggling to understand how it could ever be a popular option. 

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Alex Yakimov's picture

Usman, hi. Could you clarify which image of the toy lion was shot using Zeiss 85mm? The one on the left I assume? Thanks.

Usman Dawood's picture

that's the point they're difficult to tell apart :P.

Alex Yakimov's picture

In my oppinion there is a clear distinction. I prefer image on the right. That one should be Zigma!

Usman Dawood's picture

Lol :P

Would you say there is a clear difference in sharpness?

Alex Yakimov's picture

Hmm. What would I say? Please tell me that the second lion has German origins :-) P.S. Clear difference in contrast, but so clear in sharpness.

Usman Dawood's picture

I can send you the files if you prefer but I can assure you the difference in sharpness is negligible or imperceptible.

Alex Yakimov's picture

Sure, Usman, if you can! Happy Holidays! PS Here is something for you. I've done my own very unscientific comparison (Nikon 58mm 1.4G, Nikon 1.8 AI-S, Sigma Art 50mm) Which one is which? What do you think?

Usman Dawood's picture

Difficult to tell them apart but if I had to guess, I'd say. Sigma in the middle 58mm on the right and 1.8 on the right.

I'm literally just guessing.

Alex Yakimov's picture

At the end, the tool is as good as you want it to be. Certainly 40mm 1.2kg is abit an overkill, but I need to work out :-)

Alex Yakimov's picture

Unless it was a Zeiss on the right ...

Usman Dawood's picture

Message me your email address and I’ll send you the files.

Alex Yakimov's picture

Very well!

Alex Yakimov's picture

Happy Holidays, Usman! Lets kick it a notch next year!

Tom Reichner's picture

Backbreaking? Really? I think you need to gain some wider perspective. It is only 42 ounces. Not even three pounds. Nobody breaks their back carrying a Stanley thermos full of coffee around, and that is much much heavier. Nobody breaks their back carrying around their backpack full of school books, and that is many times heavier. Nobody breaks their back picking up a pitcher full of water, or a bag of trash, or a power saw. literally, DOZENS of things that you carry around with you every week weigh significantly more than 42 ounces, yet you say that the Sigma 40mm lens will break your back? Get real. Stop exaggerating. If your point was valid, you would be able to make it without exaggerating and using terms figuratively.

Alex Yakimov's picture

Tom, thanks for your passionate answer. It was irony. Let me clarify. My point is that weight is secondary to other characteristics, namely T-stop, given uber - sharpness, no color fringing, etc... I am strongly considering this iceberg - glass "wink" for my self. What about you? What is your heaviest?​

Tom Reichner's picture

Alex,

I agree that weight should be secondary to all other characteristics.

The problem that I have with people choosing lighter lenses is that in many cases they are giving something up in order to save the weight and size.

Maybe some of their images would be a little tiny bit more appealing if they shot them at f2, but because they wanted to save weight they took an f2.8 lens instead, and the photo is almost as good, but not exactly as good.

Or maybe they really could have used a 600mm, but because they don't like the weight and bulk (and price) of a 600mm f4, they take their 400 DO and put a 1.4 extender on it. So instead of shooting 600mm at f4, they are shooting 560mm at f5.6. Ugh.

Or worse yet, they buy one of those cheap 200-500mm or 150-600mm zooms and shoot at f6.3. Ouch! You will never convince me that these slow third party superzooms are as good optically as the huge heavy fast prime lenses of equivalent focal length.

You can't tell me the results will be every bit as good in a majority of scenarios. They are compromising final image quality, and they know it ... yet often don't want to admit it, and pretend that the images are "really good" .... when deep down they know they could be a wee bit better.

I am all for light weight - as long as nothing is compromised with respect to maximum aperture or optical quality. But in almost all cases, when someone chooses a lighter option, they are making a compromise that will have some effect on their final images.

Alex, you asked me what my heaviest is. Both of my big lenses are about 12 or 13 pounds - the Canon 400mm f2.8 IS and the Sigma 300-800mm f5.6. I don't like carrying them around, but I'm sure not going to sacrifice the reach and the speed that they give me, so I do what must be done in order to get the shots to look just the way I want them to.

Tom

Usman Dawood's picture

You’re absolutely right there is a compromise but the question is how much. This is where diminishing returns come in to play. That’s also why I now mostly pick the Batis over the Art. Sharpness difference are so minute you literally can’t tell them apart. Their is also only a minor difference in dof and the T/stop values are almost identical. For low light both are almost equal in performance.

There are no perfect combinations or systems so we’re always making compromises as photographers when deciding what gear to use.

Alex Yakimov's picture

Thank's, Tom. Please correct me if I'm​ wrong. You seem to be keen on precision and the technique, Tom. That's admirable. In your work, you seem to value sharpness corner to corner the most.

Pedro Pulido's picture

Not a big fan of this article to be honest. Opinion is all over the place and the writer contradicts himself a few times,

Sigma has a clear position in the market and they’ve remained faithful to their quality first model.

Others sacrificed sharpness for size.

Nobody is wrong or right here and actually, we as consumers are getting more options.

So yeah sigma lenses are heavy and sharp. Anything new?

I don’t want to be mean (specially cause I visit this site daily and generally love the content) but sometimes I feel like fstoppers would raise the quality to way higher standards if they hired a content director.

Usman Dawood's picture

How would you improve my article, please?

Pedro Pulido's picture

Usman, I think you gave us your ideas on sigma but I don’t think it was well structured.
I would maybe have designed the article around the different options
Big heavy and sharp vs
Small light and practical vs
Small, sharp and expensive

Calling sigma lenses “far too ridiculous” is a personal opinion and it’s all good. But sigma does sell these lenses so there is a market for it.

The title is “clickbaity” and I’m a fan of grabbing people’s attention by content, not title.

Nothing personal, just my own personal opinion and feedback on this article.

Cheers

Usman Dawood's picture

This is an opinion piece, not a comparison or a review of any sorts. The article has been tagged as an opinion too and not a review. I also said that Sigma lenses are becoming which is different from saying or suggesting all Sigma lenses are ridiculous.

The article talks mostly about the latest and newest lenses from Sigma which are noticeably larger and heavier than all of their previous lenses.

Clickbait suggests the title had little to do with the article when I discuss exactly what I mention in the title.

We can disagree about points because there are opinions but I don't think it's fair for you treat this piece as a review or comparison and then suggest it's wrong on that basis.

Reviews and comparisons generally have it marked as such in the title.

"Fstoppers Reviews X"

Pedro Pulido's picture

I did mention this is clearly your opinion. No need to justify the article and discuss your opinion with readers. Just like you, I simply gave my opinion on it. I don’t think it is well structured and the tittle feels clickbaity because afterwards your opinion on the sigma glass goes all over and is not practical. You complain, you compliment, you justify.

Let’s agree to disagree because (thank you freedom of speech) we all have the right to different opinions

Usman Dawood's picture

But I'm enjoying this discussion why end it so short?

I do complain, I do compliment and I do justify. The reason for this is because generally, most things are more than just black and white issues. There are nuances and complexities and not everything is one thing.

Disliking one thing about something doesn't mean everything is bad. I can appreciate certain aspects of a thing without it compromising another. Although I dislike the fact that some of these lenses are huge, I appreciate the quality behind the glass and why/how they're used. I also appreciate how many photographers may not be too bothered about issues like weight and size so I discuss that.

Nuance...

Also if you think you could do a better job why not apply to write for Fstoppers I mean your work is stunning. I think you should.

Pedro Pulido's picture

about the article and exactly because of those nuances you speak about, that is why i would title it differently. because in the end, you feel like the weight is ridiculous but yet you do understand why they are heavy and you appreciate the quality. And they do sell. so are they really ridiculous or is the title slightly clickbait title?

i don't think i can do a better job than you. i would for sure do a different one, but by no means better. i don't think i'm a strong writer as i don't think i'm a super strong photographer. but i do love this art.

cheers for taking my critique positively and not personal. and thanks for the compliment on my work.

Usman Dawood's picture

If you reconsider please do apply :).

Patrick Marcigliano's picture

My god writing for FStoppers is brutal. I've never seen so many posts picked apart in my life. Like, WTF? Last I checked this was a free site where i get to read about the latest gear, see some videos (essentially curated for my tastes as a photographer), and read some opinion pieces. If i don't agree, i don't agree, but sh$t man, we're getting into the structure of someone's internet post? It's like we're all critics and we get to break down every post they put up...Hmmm...nope that title's too click baity....too much opinion in there...you're being sponsored to write that..."another video post that's not yours"...i'd prefer if it wasn't a video....it goes on and on and on. Good lord if you don't like it, find another photography site, otherwise stfu or engage in the conversation without being an a$$.

Thanks Usman for another fun post. Sigma lenses are awesome and yeah they're getting a little ridiculous.

Usman Dawood's picture

Thank you so much man really appreciate the support.

Iain Stanley's picture

hahaha you wanna write with us and join us in the trenches? It's fun, I promise. Put your head above the parapet, down down down haha

Tom Reichner's picture

That was a most insightful and forthright reply, Usman.

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